Kids in too-big Detroit Pistons T-shirts peeked through the metal criss-cross of the fence as the pro basketball team bus pulled up. A police car blocked off the street at the traffic light. Passers-by peered past the people in blue shirts and pants with “crowd control” buttons.

When I said hello to Willie Johnson, he grabbed me in a hug. “Hey! Lynne!”

He ushered me inside, where a mob of people including two of his sons waited for the mayor, six professional ball players, members of the media and others to inaugurate his new court.

I wrote about Johnson for AARP: The Magazine, an article soon to be released. The basketball court outside his northwest Detroit house has drawn neighborhood kids every day for nearly 30 years. Better than any patrol car, this fenced-in court and Johnson’s oversight keep the neighborhood safe, clean and drug-free.

“If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything,” was Johnson’s quote on the back of the kids’ shirts. He’s just an average guy with a big heart who has kept countless kids on the straight and narrow.

In the corner of the court, I met a Detroit police officer, Joseph Weekley, whose effort to create SWAT for Tots brings toys to homeless and abused children every holiday season. He kicked his shoe against the new asphalt as his partner proclaimed his innovative big heart.

In my email inbox this afternoon, a blast from Eat Local Food, promoting soothing farmer market art.

Keeping it local…


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